Chelsea and Angelina walked down the dark street past a row of shops, as Belfry fluttered along behind them. Most of the shops still had displays on the sidewalk. Some had racks of handmade clothing, and tall rotating carousels of postcards, magnets, and key chains. One had a carousel that held brightly painted mugs and vases.
It probably wasn’t a good idea for them to have left the safety of the house, but Angelina had wanted to ‘explore’, leaving Chelsea with the choice between going with her and letting her go out on her own.
Chelsea had felt a little better about it after Angelina had explained her reasoning; walking around and observing where things vanished would give her a better idea of how the mysterious patterns worked.
Besides, Chelsea told herself, what they were doing probably wasn’t that much more dangerous than being in the house with Zogzhesh.
Angelina stopped and picked up a postcard, fixing it with an intense stare.
“What’s wrong?” said Chelsea.
“Nothing new is wrong,” said Angelina. “I was just thinking. I used to see these postcards in stores all the time.”
Chelsea leaned over to peer at the postcard. It displayed a colorful town between two picturesque mountains, overlooking the ocean.
“It looks so safe between those mountains,” said Angelina. “Like they’re protecting it.”
“It must be hard for you to look at,” said Chelsea.
“Yeah,” said Angelina. “It looks so different now. The colors don’t look right in the dark.”
Chelsea wanted to reach out to Angelina, to put an arm around her or take her hand, but she wasn’t sure if that would be weird. She started to place a comforting hand on Angelina’s shoulder, but Angelina bounced away toward a rack of scarves, her sad, pensive expression lifting as suddenly as it had appeared.
Angelina selected a scarf and skipped back toward Chelsea. Angelina glanced at the postcard, hesitated, and placed it back into a slot on the metal carousel.
“Look! I found a scarf you’ll love! Don’t you love it?”
Chelsea looked down at the scarf in Angelina’s hands. It was red, with an irregular polka dot pattern that looked hand painted. It was a nice enough scarf, though she wasn’t sure what exactly about it Angelina had thought she would love.
“It’s really nice.”
“I knew you’d love it! You should have it!”
Angelina moved closed and stood up on the balls of her feet, draping the scarf around Chelsea’s neck.
“I don’t know,” said Chelsea. “It feels kind of like stealing.”
“No one is using it now. It’s not hurting anyone to take it.” Angelina’s sad expression returned. “These things are all just sitting here, alone and sad. I think it’s less sad if someone takes them. It’s like we’re rescuing it.”
“In that case,” said Chelsea. “I think it’s a beautiful scarf.”
Chelsea reached up to wrap the scarf around her neck, but Angelina got there first. She looped the scarf around Chelsea’s neck in a neat knot.
“There,” said Angelina. “That’s how Italians wear our scarves.”
Chelsea looked down at the scarf knot and smiled.
“Do you know what this type of knot is called in English?”
“No. What’s it called?”
“A Chelsea knot.”
“Really?” said Angelina. “It must be a sign then. This is the scarf you were meant to wear. It’s your scarf destiny.”
Chelsea had expected Angelina to pull away after tying the scarf, but she stayed close enough for Chelsea to feel her shivering from the cold.
Chelsea pulled away, fixing her attention on the rack of scarves.
“You’re freezing!” said Chelsea. “I think it’s my turn to find a scarf for you.”
“Cool!” said Angelina. “Find me something with hot pink! And black! Maybe something with strawberries? Or a zebra pattern? Or both!”
“I’m not sure if they’ll have strawberry zebra scarves,” said Chelsea. “I’ll see what I can find. I’ll pick you something really great, I promise.”
“If you pick it, I know it’ll be great!”
Chelsea started toward the scarf rack, but stopped as something on a display table caught her eye. She hadn’t seen it at first, jumbled among handmade trinkets and souvenirs. She picked it up.
“What’s that?” said Angelina.
Chelsea held it up. It was an empty drink can with a label proclaiming that it contained only one calorie.
An empty can was hardly an unusual thing to find, but something about the can felt off to her–maybe it was the English label, or the stray drops she could feel rolling around in the bottom when she moved it.
“It’s weird. There’s still a little bit of pop in the can, like someone just finished drinking it. But it’s all covered in rust, like it’s old.”
Chelsea looked closer at the can. Dark red marbled blotches covered it, but the aluminum beneath looked shiny and new. She noticed lines streaking through the dark red, like the lines in the palm of someone’s hand.
Belfry fluttered over and came to rest on Chelsea’s shoulder, sniffing the air.
“È sangue,” he said.
Sangue. What did that mean again?
Angelina’s eyes widened as she looked at the can.
“Blood,” she said. “It’s covered in blood.”